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The Tape: Fourth Quarter Reflections 9/19

Kind of a boring quarter without much excitement until the disaster at the end. My comments are a little limited. You just don't realize how crushing the end was until you've watched the whole contest a few times. Seattle was stomped for most of the first half, but then everything seemed to start breaking their way in the second. Even though I knew what was going to happen, it still seemed like the Hawks were supposed to win until the very end.

  • On the fifth play of the Hawks' first drive, the one that resulted in a 27 yard reception by Deion Branch, you see some of the same confusion that led to the later fumble. The Hawks are in the same formation, 3 WR, I-back. Following the snap Shaun Alexander runs up behind Matt Hasselbeck like he's either accepting a hand-off or faking play action. Meanwhile, Calvin Pace has run into the backfield and is steps in front of Hasselbeck about to convert the sack. Alexander breaks off his little shuffle behind Beck and runs towards the defender, but he's easily twice as far from Pace as Pace is from Hasselbeck. Luckily, Beck shows the presence of mind to throw out to Branch and even more luckily Branch catches, shakes a tackle and is off for a big gain. The outcome was awesome, and Beck and Branch both made cagey plays, but it was literally two feet away from being a sack. The play clearly wasn't a run, and I don't think the call was for play action because Branch ran a short hook, Bobby Engram a short slant and Nate Burleson was working up top. Only Burleson's route would be conducive to play action and it looked like he was being used more as a decoy to open up the middle for Engram. I think, quite simply, Alexander didn't know the play call. That's pretty hard to swallow by itself, but Alexander proved later that despite working in the same system for 8 years, he often doesn't know what's going on.
  • Perhaps inspired by Maurice Morris' 34 yard touchdown reception in week one, the Hawks have been motioning the tailback wide a lot recently. On the eighth play of the Hawks first drive (3rd and 7) they motioned Alexander out wide right before calling a draw play to Mack Strong. Gerald Hayes trailed Alexander outside and the resulting hole in the middle played a big part in allowing Strong to nearly convert the first down. Watching it a few times I couldn't help but wonder why you'd even bother covering Shaun wide. Or perhaps more accurately, why not, given the down and distance, assign a safety to Alexander. He's an embarrassment receiving, especially with the cast on, and he's less of a threat to break tackles than Burleson. Strong very nearly converted the first and if he had I think it would have been the result of a gross overestimation of Alexander's abilities. Also, the shelf life of this play, especially with Alexander being the one motioning wide, is about one more quarter. Any defensive coordinator who falls for a bluff so obvious or a threat so hollow should hang up the headphones.
  • The Cardinals power rushing attack forced Seattle into a base defensive formation on all but one play in the fourth quarter. When a coach talks about establishing the run, that's the sort of outcome he's looking for. The Hawks don't show a ton of looks on defense anyway, but the need to keep big-bodied run stoppers on the field left Seattle more vanilla than usual.
  • I'm not going to rehash the botched play, instead let's end on a positive note. Both lines for the Hawks really came alive in the second half. The defensive line had already had a dominant performance against the Bucs so they can be forgiven for a slow start in week 2, but the offensive line hadn't looked like the formidable unit its talent promised. That is until the second half against the Cards. Alexander had some big rushing lanes. Beck, for the most part, had good time, a roomy pocket and passing lanes. Most importantly, Walter Jones looked himself, dominating defenders and cutting off the edge rush. I'm a firm believer in the idea that you're always getting better or worse, the Hawks line looks like it's coming together very nicely.

    The defensive line really amped up the pressure in the second half. I think a part of that is that the Cards finally started getting called for holding. I figure if your blocking is holding within the letter of the law but you're not getting called for it, why bother stopping? Once a couple holds were called the Hawks defensive line starting breaking free with more regularity. It will be interesting to see how the Hawks defensive line performs when the Cards come to Qwest in week 14.

Ok, not a very interesting quarter. Game balls go to Lofa Tatupu who really does look a lot like Mike Singletary and Matt Hasselbeck who looks more accurate and more poised than I've ever seen him. I have something planned for the stats tomorrow, so those will be presented then with some accompanying reflections. Until then, do me a favor and comment below on what you like/don't like about the site. I'm really not looking for compliments, just a sense of what works, what should be improved and what should be scrapped. Thanks.